The dust storms have begun and we saw our first one today. The wind was blowing hard and as we looked out of our sitting room over to the mountain we saw it swallowed up by a fierce dust storm.
On Thursday we took a school trip to one of the teacher’s houses around 15km out of the city. There were about 20 of us; teachers, students from Switzerland, Thailand, UK, Australia and Korea, plus family members.
A Khorkhog (Xopxoг) was prepared for us. This is a traditional Mongolian BBQ dish. Khorkhog is made by cooking pieces of meat inside a pot which also contains hot stones and a little liquid. The heat of the stones and the steam cooks the meat inside the pan.
The stones turn black from the heat and the fat they absorb from the lamb. The hot stones are then tossed from hand to hand and are said to have beneficial properties. I’m not sure about this one. The stones were bloody hot and left my hands covered in mutton grease. Tim asked our teacher Alta if she believed in the benefits of doing this to which she replied “No.”
Diners usually eat khorkhog with their fingers, although one can use a knife to slice the meat off the bone.
Tim made a potato salad (нийслэл салат pronounced “neeslel salat” and means “Capital Salad”) the Aussie, Ben, made egg mayo sandwiches and Nikki (mentioned in an earlier post) made a very British lemon drizzle cake. We played some Mongolian children’s games, which amounted to us being coerced into Asian style organised fun.
On Sunday we walked to the Zaisan Memorial. It is 45 minutes from home and took us over the Peace Bridge and the bridge over the now defrosted Tuul River.
The Zaisan Memorial (Зайсан) is south of Ulaanbaatar and was built to honor Soviet soldiers killed in World War II. It is located on a hill that one reaches by climbing a few hundred steps. On the way down we passed two Mongolian men, who we assumed were wrestlers in training, as they were jogging up the steps in tracksuits with hoods up (it was around 26C).
The memorial features a circular painting that depicts scenes of friendship between the peoples of the USSR and Mongolia. The mural illustrates scenes such as Soviet support for Mongolia’s independence declaration in 1921, the defeat of the Japanese Kwantung Army by the Soviets at Khalhkin Gol on the Mongolian border in 1939, victory over Nazi Germany and peacetime achievements such as Soviet space flights.
In 2003 a tank memorial, which previously had been located on a crossroads between Zaisan and the city center, was moved to the foot of the hill. It features a Soviet tank from a brigade paid for by the Mongolian people. The tank memorial has a map on its side showing the route the brigade took from Moscow in 1943 to its participation in the fall of Berlin in 1945. This memorial was being climbed on by a group of young people.
On the way home we stopped in at the Buddha Park and passed by the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, which is now a museum. The palace is the only one left from originally four residences of the eighth Jebtsundamba Khutughtu, who was later proclaimed Bogd Khan, or emperor of Mongolia. The complex includes six temples.
We also made a recce of the suburbs to find the start of a path up a mountain we fancy climbing. From the top of the memorial we had seen an interesting horseshoe ridge walk and wanted to check we could get up the mountain without encroaching on someone’s Ger space and getting attacked by dogs!